The NL Central champion Cubs are very much in contending mode, but this winter they stand to lose Jake Arrieta and John Lackey from an already suspect rotation. As such, they need starting pitchers. They're already the subject of Yu Darvish rumors, and pretty much every team will be interested in Shohei Otani, especially at these artificially depressed rates

While it's not as headline-grabbing as those two names above, another free agent starting pitcher may be a good fit on the North Side: Alex Cobb. The 30-year-old right-hander, assuming he declines the qualifying offer made by the Rays, will be a free agent, and he also has strong ties to Cubs manager Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey, who both worked with Cobb for his best seasons in Tampa Bay. On that point, here's what Cobb told MLB Network Radio (via Patrick Mooney of NBC) ... 

"I can't say enough good things about him [Hickey]. He's become – not only a pitching coach – but a real close friend of mine. Obviously, if we move down the line and we're able to have some discussions with them [the Cubs], I'd be very honored to be able to talk with them and hopefully come to a deal."

As Mooney's story points out, Hickey's also on board with a reunion. 

Cobb is coming off a 2017 season in which he pitched to a 3.66 ERA (113 ERA+) and 2.91 K/BB ratio in a career-high 179 1/3 innings. For his career, Cobb owns an ERA+ of 111 across parts of six big-league seasons. Those kinds of numbers are more than playable for mid-rotation to back-end guy like Cobb. 

Cobb underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2015, so the 2016 season was essentially a lost one for him. This past season, though, he proved his post-surgery mettle in a strong way, at least on the run-prevention and durability levels. In part, that's why Cobb wound up going eighth overall in our free agent draft

If the Cubs are going to win the NL Central for a third straight year, then they'll need to bolster that rotation. Cobb, it seems, is ready and willing to help out.